Carol Ann Duffy’s “unconventional lifestyle”, by the Observer

// 18 May 2008

So, Carol Ann Duffy’s “unconventional lifestyle” impeded her chances of becoming the first female Poet Laureate, according to The Observer.

By “unconventional lifestyle”, they mean she is a lesbian. And no, they weren’t quoting anyone, that’s their description. Yes, I did say Observer not Daily Mail. It actually gets worse. Because, we learn, Duffy’s lifestyle is now considered conventional enough that she might be in for a second chance of getting the gig, as she’s apparently not in a relationship (at least not with anyone high profile!) anymore:

While Armitage was ruled out because of his relative youth, Duffy’s unconventional lifestyle was said to have counted against her….

It was also suggested that Blair, then Prime Minister, had vetoed Duffy because he was concerned that her domestic arrangements would be inappropriate for such a public figure.

Now, as the gift of the position comes around again, things look different for Duffy. Her daughter, Ella, is almost a teenager and her relationship with her fellow Scottish poet, Jackie Kay, has ended. She has built on the success of her 1993 collection, Mean Time, which won both the Whitbread and Forward prizes, with an intense 2005 work, Rapture, which won the TS Eliot prize. Duffy, born in 1955, has also been appointed an OBE and a CBE and is now a regular feature of the GCSE syllabus.

Note: the implication doesn’t seem to be that attitudes have changed, but her relationship status has changed – presumably making her sexuality less visible?! As least to, um, people who’ve not read any of her poetry, and don’t know anything about her?!

(Incidentally, I was studying Duffy’s collected poems for my A Levels at around the time she was up for the Laureate job last time, so it’s not like she wasn’t on the syllabus in 1999.)

Comments From You

Redheadinred // Posted 18 May 2008 at 9:32 pm

I did CAD for my a-levels as well. I love her poetry, I tend to think the reason she isn’t appreciated by a lot of people is that she is – a FEMINIST, and on top of that, not even a ‘friendly feminist’ because she doesn’t even fancy men, so is percieved as some screwed-up dangerous person.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 May 2008 at 10:47 pm

She’s certainly better than Simon bloody Armitage.

shatterboxx // Posted 18 May 2008 at 11:07 pm

Didn’t Carol Ann Duffy say she would have refused the award even if she had been offered it? God, that article is ridiculous though… Do the Observer even CARE how they look any more…

Seph // Posted 19 May 2008 at 3:35 am

This is just stupid, what the hell does being a lesbian have to do with your job.

Hell, half the male poets we studied in school were more famous for being alcoholics, abusive or insane than for their poetry and it never stopped some of them being made poet laureate.

Jo // Posted 22 May 2008 at 10:02 am

Thank Christ for the f-word!! I read that particular piece on Sunday and couldn’t quite believe my eyes either. Shame on you, Observer.

Steph Jones // Posted 22 May 2008 at 10:17 am

Have just sent a contribution for the Review letters page. You may want to do the same? Address is:

dc // Posted 24 May 2008 at 4:04 am

Yes, I was equally outraged by their idiotic view that she was more “acceptable” now because she was no longer in a lesbian relationship.

So if she gets it, is she supposed to stay celibate for the next 10 years?!@##$%^ Or have a relationship with a man?

The whole idea is deeply offensive. I hope people have written into the f**king Observer to give them a bollocking.

bella // Posted 1 September 2008 at 12:34 am

I remember Carol Ann Duffy loudly decalring that she would never ever accept an OBE – yet she did quite eagerly. Then she got a CBE later. So if she has said she’d never accept the Laureate job I am sure she will change her mind about that.

Also she is NOT a lesbian… she is bi-sexual.

She had a long relationship with Adrian Henri, followed by a decade-long relationship with Londoner Liz Graham [which she always seems to omit from her biographies – possibly because Liz isn’t well-known???] before moving on to Jackie Kay. Now she seems to be hanging around with her daughter’s dad – if anyone is even interested.

CAD is just like the rest of us – not always honest and given to bouts of hypocrisy.

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